Phylogenetic relationships of the mockingbirds and thrashers (Aves: Mimidae)

Irby J. Lovette, Brian S. Arbogast, Robert L. Curry, Robert M. Zink, Carlos A. Botero, John P. Sullivan, Amanda L. Talaba, Rebecca B. Harris, Dustin R. Rubenstein, Robert E. Ricklefs, Eldredge Bermingham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


The mockingbirds, thrashers and allied birds in the family Mimidae are broadly distributed across the Americas. Many aspects of their phylogenetic history are well established, but there has been no previous phylogenetic study that included all species in this radiation. Our reconstructions based on mitochondrial and nuclear DNA sequence markers show that an early bifurcation separated the Mimidae into two clades, the first of which includes North and Middle American taxa (Melanotis, Melanoptila, Dumetella) plus a small radiation that likely occurred largely within the West Indies (Ramphocinclus, Allenia, Margarops, Cinclocerthia). The second and larger radiation includes the Toxostoma thrasher clade, along with the monotypic Sage Thrasher (Oreoscoptes) and the phenotypically diverse and broadly distributed Mimus mockingbirds. This mockingbird group is biogeographically notable for including several lineages that colonized and diverged on isolated islands, including the Socorro Mockingbird (Mimus graysoni, formerly Mimodes) and the diverse and historically important Galapagos mockingbirds (formerly Nesomimus). Our reconstructions support a sister relationship between the Galapagos mockingbird lineage and the Bahama Mockingbird (M. gundlachi) of the West Indies, rather than the Long-tailed Mockingbird (M. longicaudatus) or other species presently found on the South American mainland. Relationships within the genus Toxostoma conflict with traditional arrangements but support a tree based on a preivous mtDNA study. For instance, the southern Mexican endemic Ocellated Thrasher (T. ocellatum) is not an isolated sister species of the Curve-billed thrasher (T. curvirostre).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)219-229
Number of pages11
JournalMolecular Phylogenetics and Evolution
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank B. McCleery and D. Rabosky for advice and assistance, and two reviewers for the comments on the manuscript. Part of this work was carried out using the resources of the Computational Biology Service Unit at Cornell University which is partially funded by Microsoft Corporation. We thank the following institutions, their field collaborators, and their collections staff for the loan of genetic materials: Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia; Bell Museum of Natural History, University of Minnesota; Cornell University Museum of Vertebrates; Louisiana State University Museum of Natural Science; Museo Nacional de Historia Natural, Santiago, Chile; San Diego State University Museum of Biodiversity; Wake Forest University. We thank B. Arbogast and D. Cadeña for providing previously unpublished sequences generated in their laboratories. We are grateful to P. Tubaro of the Museo Argentino de Ciencias Naturales, Buenos Aires for his guidance in obtaining specimens of South American mockingbird species. CAB is funded by the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent), NSF Grant EF-0905606. This Project was additionally supported by awards NSF-DEB-0924741 and NSF-DEB-0515981.


  • Classification
  • Galapagos
  • Mimidae
  • Mockingbird
  • Phylogeny
  • Thrasher


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